Some citizens concerned city still levying Prop S tax

Ballot wording allows Prop S to be collected through 2012

By Kari Williams

Some Crestwood residents who campaigned for a 20-cent tax are upset the city continues to levy it even though the debt associated with it was retired in 2010.

Crestwood voters approved the 20-cent, tax-rate increase, Proposition S, in April 2006 to eliminate $2 million in debt and a $1.5 million line of credit from Southwest Bank.

Though the debt was retired in 2010, the Board of Aldermen voted to collect the tax through 2011. The ballot language for Prop S allows the tax to be assessed through 2012 and the Board of Aldermen will decide this fall when they set the city’s rates whether to continue to collect the Prop S revenue.

Resident Ron Herring, who campaigned and voted for Prop S, told the board last week when voters considered the issue in 2006, they were told the tax would sunset once the city’s debt was paid.

However, Mayor Jeff Schlink said there are “different interpretations” on that, and the board will decide whether to extend Prop S for one more year when it sets the city’s tax rates in the fall. Residents cannot vote on whether the tax is extended.

City Attorney Rob Golterman said the approved ballot language allows the tax to be imposed for an additional year.

“This board, if they chose to, could impose that 20 cents for one more year, but no more than one more year,” he said.

In response, Herring said, “Then somebody snuck something in … When we weren’t looking, somebody snuck something in.”

But Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel said, in his opinion, the ballot language “had a loophole in it.”

“In my opinion, it was never the intention of the board to collect the property tax after the debt was paid off,” he said. “… About two years ago, the question was presented to this board as far as the collection of the property tax beyond the point at which the borrowed amount was repaid. This board, at that time, made the determination that it would not do so. That’s where things stand right now.”

One week before the 2006 election, aldermen voted to adopt a resolution stating, “This mayor and Board of Aldermen attest that our intention of offering Proposition S to the voters of the city is solely to retire our current debt to Southwest Bank and to eliminate the need for our current line of credit from that same bank, including any accumulated interest debt which may occur until those two purposes are accomplished …”

That evening — March 28, 2006 — then-Mayor Roy Robinson vowed to ask aldermen to retire the Prop S tax if the city’s debts were paid off before the tax’s seven-year sunset expired in 2012.

Robinson made that statement in response to a public comment from resident John Foote, who is now a Ward 4 alderman.

But in May 2009, Robinson said he would veto any decision by the Board of Aldermen to sunset the tax before its revenue replenished the general fund.

The 2006 resolution also stated, “We ask the future mayors and Boards of Aldermen serving until the tax terminates to reaffirm each year this same attestation so that the voters have continued assurance that the purposes herein stated are indeed being accomplished as prudently and quickly as possible …”

Resident Don Ulmer said the intent of Prop S was the tax would sunset when the city’s debt was retired.

“I know there are residents who would be very disappointed if you continue the tax,” Ulmer said. “That doesn’t mean if you’re in debt the citizens won’t approve a tax, but to extend this on your own is a big mistake.”